close navigation menu

Dunedin Cruises

About Dunedin, New Zealand

Port Chalmers lies on the 12-mile-long Otago Harbor. Across the water past two picturesque islands, the distinctive Harbor Cone summit rises on the Otago Peninsula. The town’s scenic setting has inspired a thriving arts scene to flourish. Nearby, at the head of the harbor in a huge natural amphitheater, Dunedin is home to New Zealand’s first university and one of the South Island’s cultural capitals. This lively college town has a deep-rooted Scottish heritage, founded in 1848 by pilgrims who had separated from the Presbyterian Church to form the Free Church of Scotland. The Māori were no doubt happy to welcome the Scots once they saw how peaceful they were.

The 1860s saw an influx of residents with the discovery of gold in nearby Gabriel’s Gully and the population growth made Dunedin New Zealand’s first official city in 1865. As educational institutions and businesses thrived, one of the world’s first tram systems began operation here. Today, Dunedin is an ideal spot from which to explore the unspoiled beauty of the Otago Peninsula, a finger of steep pastureland pointing into the water from the mainland.

Dunedin Lifestyle and Culture

With a rich Scottish heritage, Dunedin is known as the “Edinburgh of the South.” Even its name is Gaelic for “Edinburgh,” and many of the city’s streets were named after those found in its counterpart. The town was originally built on a flat expanse of land on a natural harbor, but it soon expanded into the hillsides, creating some of the steepest streets in the world. The city is also home to the University of Otago, the oldest in New Zealand. Established in 1869, it has long supported a large student population and injected a lively cultural scene into day-to-day life. Many alumni writers helped establish the city as a UNESCO City of Literature.

Scottish heritage can be seen and heard everywhere in Dunedin. A statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns stands in the Octagon, the central square and meeting place. The city is home to six whisky distilleries. And you’re likely to see men wearing kilts adorned with the city’s own tartan pattern and hear devotees playing bagpipes. Most of all, Dunedin is said to be home to the friendliest New Zealanders around, a lot to be said for a city in a nation already renowned as one of the world’s friendliest.

Dunedin Sights and Landmarks

Dunedin was founded in the Victorian era, and a regal statue of Queen Victoria adorns Queens Gardens. But perhaps the most impressive emblem of her day is the Old Railway Station, a grand and sprawling beauty with elegant ornamental touches such as stained-glass windows and mosaic-tiled floors. St. Paul’s Cathedral, on the Octagon, is a stunning echo of the Church of England and is home to a 3,500-pipe organ, one of the finest in the Southern Hemisphere. And to tip your hat to the city’s original European settlers, visit the First Church of Otago, a Gothic wonder constructed from locally quarried white stone.

The beauty of Dunedin is its compact size, making it easy to explore on foot so long as you avoid the hill-climbing streets. But Baldwin Street is worth a glance. It’s been called the steepest residential street in the world and hosts an annual “gutbuster” running race. Conversely, the annual Cadbury Jaffa Race, named for the candy, involves participants rolling some round locally made chocolates down the street.

Dunedin is also an ideal base from which to explore the Otago Peninsula. This breathtaking vista of mountains and sea is home to seals, penguins and seabirds, including the only mainland colony of albatross in the world.

Dunedin Entertainment and Activities

One of New Zealand’s largest and oldest cities, Dunedin is home to an array of museums that reflect its rich heritage. Learn the story of the first permanent European inhabitants at the Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, and follow their stories into the modern era. At the Otago Museum, peruse exhibits chronicling the region’s cultural and geographic past. Stroll the Dunedin Chinese Garden, designed to honor the Chinese people who contributed to the city’s growth.

Several institutions provide insight into the city’s arts scene, past and present. The mansion known as Olveston was home to the elite Theomin family, active patrons who helped open the Public Art Gallery. Their collection of Japanese art is exquisite. Visit the gallery for which they were largely responsible and you’ll admire a wide range of installations in airy spaces. At the Art Station, view the work of local artists and other pieces that have been donated over the past 140 years.

Dunedin Restaurants and Shopping

With a long farming tradition and strong connection to the bounties of the harbor and sea, Dunedin’s menus feature fresh, local ingredients. Pacific, Asian and Scottish cuisine have had their due influence here.

No.7 Balmac is perched atop Māori Hill. Along with sweeping views, you’ll enjoy distinctive café fare and plenty of options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Sample Korean and Japanese dishes at Miga, where tempura, ramen and kimchi are among the favorites. Kebabs and meze keep students and residents coming back to Paasha, a reliable find for quality Turkish food.

Local arts and crafts inspired by the vistas and cultures of Otago abound in Dunedin. Stop by Gallery De Novo to browse its colorful collection of fine art. And the Stuart Street Potters Cooperative partners with area craftspeople to provide an eclectic collection of pottery and ceramics.